American Political Parties
CMC Gov 123, Spring 2014
Monday and Wednesday
Roberts South 102
J.J. Pitney -- Office:
Hours: Tuesday and Thursday 1-3 PM
these times are inconvenient, please
make an appointment
In 1885, a political scientist named Woodrow
Wilson wrote: “Neither of the two principal parties is of one
mind with itself. Each tolerates all sorts of difference of creed
and variety of aim within its own ranks ... They are like armies
without officers, engaged on a campaign which has no great cause at its
back. Their names and traditions, not their hopes and policy,
keep them together.” Was Wilson accurately describing his
times? Does his observation still hold true? If so,
why? In this course, we shall explore such questions by studying
the history of American political parties, as well as their current
condition. This task poses a challenge, since the term party
has many shades of meaning, including:
We shall see how the basic features of the
American constitutional system -- federalism, bicameralism and the
separation of powers -- tend to fragment and disperse the lines of
party authority. In this course, we shall study all the multiple
dimensions of American political parties and consider what they mean
for democratic government.
- Parties in the electorate (PIE);
- Party organization (PO);
- Partisan outside groups (POG);
- Party in government (PIG).
Class sessions will include
lecture and discussion. Finish
each week's readings before class because our discussions will involve
those readings. We
shall also talk about breaking news stories about party politics, so you must read a good daily news source such
as Politico or
class blog is at
I shall post videos, graphs, news stories, and other material
there. We shall use some of this material in class, and you
may review the rest at your convenience. You will
all receive invitations to post to the blog. (Please let me
know if you do not get such an
invitation.) I encourage you to use the blog in these ways:
post questions or comments about the readings before we
discuss them in class;
follow up on class discussions with additional
comments or questions.
post relevant news items or videos.
that that blog is on the open Internet. Do not post anything that
you would not an employer to see. If you want more confidentiality,
post to the forum on the class Sakai page.
The following will make up
your course grade:
- Three 4-page essays: 20% each
- One research paper: 25%
- Class participation, presentation, blog: 15%
- The papers
will develop your research and writing skills, and test your comprehension of class materials
In grading your papers, I will take account of the
quality of your writing, applying the principles of
White’s Elements of Style. If
you object to this approach, do not take this course, or anything else
that I teach.
The research paper
will give you an opportunity to delve into scholarly and primary sources.
Class participation will hone your ability to think on
your feet, as I shall call on students at random.
If you often miss class or fail to prepare, your grade
will suffer. I shall use the cold
calls to judge how well you are keeping up with the material.
you object to this approach, do not take this course. I
also expect you to post relevant material to the blog. In April,
you will each make a very brief oral presentation on a topic of your
choosing, subject to my approval.
addition to the required readings (below), I may also give you handouts,
emails, and web links
covering current events and basic factual information.
- As a courtesy to your fellow students, please arrive on time and refrain from eating in class.
- Check due dates. Plan your schedule accordingly. Do not plan on extensions.
lagiarism or any other form of academic
dishonesty will result in referral to the Academic Standards Committee. See:
Schedule The schedule is subject to change,
with advance notice.
zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning Government
and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an
attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence
and power, or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been
interesting to human passions, have in turn divided mankind into
parties ....”-- James Madison, Federalist 10.
27, 29: The American Party System
"You are a Democrat. What's the matter with you? Are you wicked?" -- Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones) in Lincoln
remember my body. Flabby, pasty-skinned, riddled with phlebitis. A good
Republican body. God, how I loved it." -- Richard Nixon on Futurama
- Hershey, ch. 1-2
- Brewer, ch. 1-2.
- Connelly, ch. 6.
3, 5: State and Local Party Organizations
an honest graft, and I'm an example of how it works. I might sum up the
whole thing by sayin': `I seen my opportunities and I took `em.'" --
George Washington Plunkitt
- Hershey, ch. 3
- Brewer, ch. 5.
- William L. Riordon, Plunkitt of Tammany Hall: A Series of Very Plain Talks on Very Practical Politics, 1905, at http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2810/2810-h/2810-h.htm: preface and chapter 1-6.
- Nicholas Confessore, "A National Strategy Funds State Political Monopolies," New York Times, January 11, 2014, at http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/12/us/politics/a-national-strategy-funds-state-political-monopolies.html
Feb 10, 12: National Party Organization and Activists
“Always kick `em when they’re down.” -- Lee Atwater
Hershey, ch. 4-5
- Brewer, ch. 4 and 6.
FIRST 4-PAGE PAPER DUE FEBRUARY 14.
17, 19: Campaign Finance and Partisan Outside Groups
"And you can't talk to the campaigns directly. You can't coordinate with to them. But you can play bridge." -- Karl Rove
are under no illusion that BCRA will be the last congressional
statement on the matter. Money, like water, will always find an
outlet." -- Justices Stevens and O'Connor in McConnell v. FEC
- Hershey, ch. 12
- Brewer, ch. 8.
- Raymond J. LaRaja, “Why Super PACs: How the American Party System
Outgrew the Campaign Finance System,” The Forum 10 (February 2013): 91-104. On Sakai.
- Michael M. Franz, "Interest Groups in Electoral Politics: 2012 in Context," The Forum 10 (February 2013): 62-79. On Sakai.
Feb 24, 26: Party in the Electorate
that suspicion and cynicism produce is a huddling effect among
partisans. Convinced that the honest brokers simply don’t exist, they
tend to seek political sustenance from those who affirm their points of
view. They watch the same TV shows, listen to the same radio stations,
shop at the same places and live in the same neighborhoods as people
who believe like they do. Interactions with people with which they
disagree and entities like Congress or the news media dwindle." --Chris Cillizza
- Hershey, ch. 6-8
- Brewer, ch. 13
Mar 3, 5: Choosing Candidates
"Oops." -- Rick Perry
- Hershey, ch. 9-10.
- Brewer ch. 7
- Zachary Courser, "The Tea Party as a Conservative Social Movement," Society 49 (January 2012): 43-53.
SECOND 4-PAGE PAPER DUE MARCH 7.
12: Parties in General Election Campaigns
at your houses, your parents, your wives, and your children. Are
you prepared to see your dwellings in flames, hoary hairs bathed
in blood, female chastity violated, or children writhing on the pike
and halberd?" -- Connecticut Courant, September 30, 1800, on what the election of Thomas Jefferson would bring.
17, 19: Spring Break
24, 26: Parties in Government I"So,
I am to receive thirty percent for finance, for legal protection and
political influence. Is that what you're telling me?I said that I would
see you because I had heard that you were a serious man, to be treated
with respect. But I must say no to you and let me give you my reasons.
It's true I have a lot of friends in politics, but they wouldn't be so
friendly if they knew my business was drugs instead of gambling which
they consider a harmless vice." -- Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) in The Godfather
March 31, Apr 2: Parties in Government II
is a lot like real estate. It's all about location, location, location.
The closer you are to the source the higher your property value." --
Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey), in House of Cards
Apr 7, 9: Parties in Government III
are...the party that says government can make you richer, smarter,
taller and get the chickweed out of your lawn. Republicans are the
party that says government doesn't work, and then they get elected and
prove it.” -- P.J. O’Rourke
Connelly, ch. 8-9
- Brewer, ch. 9, 11, 12
RESEARCH PAPER DUE APRIL 11
14, 16: Technology and the Future I
divide their county into small districts, and to appoint in each a
subcommittee, whose duty it shall be to make a perfect list of all the
voters in their respective districts, and to ascertain with certainty
for whom they will vote. If they meet with men who are doubtful as to
the man they will support, such voters should be designated in separate
lines, with the name of the man they will probably support." -- Abraham Lincoln, Whig circular, 1840
- Brewer, ch. 10
- Issenberg, ch. 1-3.
21, 23: Technology and the Future II
is not about the tools. It is about people. It's about creating a
culture that drives metrics over hunches and BS `message of the day'
fire drills." -- Patrick Ruffini
Apr 28, 30: Technology and the Future III
amazing: every year, this part of our job gets easier. Between
Facebook, Instagram, and Flickr, people are surveilling themselves." --
Phil Coulson, Agent of SHIELD.
- Issenberg, ch. 8-10, epilogue, and afterword
THIRD 4-PAGE PAPER DUE MAY 5
5, 7: Appraisal“Above
all else in politics, remember that it isn’t enough just to have a set
of principles. You have to have people out there representing them,
getting elected on the basis of them.” -- William Rusher